Home > China News
Korean War: In the View of Cost-effectiveness
2003/10/21

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement (KAA) of the Korean War (1950-1953) at Panmunjom on July 27, 1953. Though both sides claimed their triumph, the Chinese People's Volunteer Army won more admiration and reputation judged by modern war cost-effectiveness perspective.

When the Korean War was fought, the astounding gap between Chinese and US forces in both technology and equipment was rarely seen in the world's military history. In 1950, the national income of the United States was US$240 billion, but that of China counted for only US$10 billion; the United States owned 31,000 military planes, China had no more than 200; the US army was equipped with one truck for every four soldiers in average, the Chinese volunteers had only one truck out of 500 soldiers in average; the firepower of a single American regiment well outstripped that of a Chinese army! Though China received aids from the Soviet Union, arms were strained and had to be paid in halve.

During the wartime, 70 percent of the forces of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) were dispatched to Korea as the Chinese People's Volunteers (accumulated to 2.97 million), along with more than 600,000 civil workers. The Chinese People's Volunteers suffered 148,000 deaths altogether, among which 114,000 died in combats, incidents, and winterkill, 21,000 died after being hospitalized, 13,000 died from diseases; and 380,000 were wounded. There were also 29,000 missing, including 21,400 POWs, of whom 14,000 were sent to Taiwan, 7,110 were repatriated. China spent 6.2 billion yuan in the war and owed US$1.3 billion to the USSR. The total national income of the newly established People's Republic of China in the three years was 200 billion yuan, with a government expenditure of 60 billion yuan. The recovery of its national economy was not severely influenced by the war.

The Korean People's Army had 290,000 casualties and 90,000 POWs. There was a large number of civilian deaths in the northern part of Korea, but no accurate figures were available.

The after-war joint declaration of the Chinese People's Volunteers and the Korean People's Army claimed that they "eliminated 1.09 million enemy forces, including 390,000 from the United States, 660,000 from South Korean, and 29,000 from other countries." The vague "eliminated" number gave no details to that of dead, wounded and captured. This was because it was too difficult to assess killing effectiveness in battlefields at the moment and the unclear number may provide some leeway in negotiations for POW repatriation. .

Compared with the number released by the United States and South Korea, the results of the battlefield tallied by the Joint Command of China and North Korea was conservative, except the over-estimation of the US casualties. The US and South Korea side claimed 1.13 millions of casualties, including 141,000 US forces, 970,000 South Korean forces, and 20,000 from other countries, along with 100,000 missing.

As the commander of the UN forces Gen. Mark W. Clark said, he had "the unenviable distinction of being the first US Army commander to sign an armistice without victory." During the three years, the United States had sent 1.17 million troops to Korea and spent US$20 billion directly in the war. Adding up war preparation and aid to South Korea, the total US war expenditure counted for US$64 billion. The US military declared 33,000 were killed, 108,000 wounded and 3,700 captured. Along with those died in accidents and hospital, altogether 53,000 US soldiers died in the Korean War, all their names having been carved on the Korean War Memorial built in the 1990s in Washington D.C.

In order not to dampen the morale, the South Korean government once shrunk their casualty number to 300,000 and that of missing, 90,000. After the demise of the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee, the more-open South Korean government revamped the numbers as 220,000 killed (in addition to 30,000 indirect deaths) and 750,000 wounded.

Viewing the war by modern scientific conceptions in terms of cost-effectiveness, similar to the assessment to an economic project, the Chinese People's Volunteers fought the war in a more marvelous way and produced more splendid results in regard of fighting skills and war arts, therefore they have every reason to won reverence of modern military men.

(The author Xu Yan is a researcher of military history at the Academy of National Defense)


(China.org.cn translated by Li Liangdu, July 29, 2003)

 
Suggest to a Friend:   
Print